Sunday, 6 April 2008

Language trends and waiting blues.

Hi everbody! I recently skimmed over an interview* about programming language trends in the DDJ. In general, there was nothing new in there, rather a re-statement of the widely known programming trends. But some phrases caught my eye nonetheless:

PJ: C and C++ are definitely losing ground. There is a simple explanation for this. Languages without automated garbage collection are getting out of fashion.
....
Another language that has had its day is Perl. It was once the standard language for every system administrator and build manager, but now everyone has been waiting on a new major release for more than seven years. That is considered far too long.
As I'm mainly a C++ programmer in my bussines life, the news of the proceeding C++'s demise worry me, if only it acknowledges what I see with my own eyes. So this fact alone is not what I want to talk about, but rather about C++ similarity to Perl. Why?

Look, can't you see a parallel to the Perl's fate here? I cite: "everyone has been waiting on a new major release for more than seven years". And there's still no Perl 6! Recall, there were plans for Parrot**, a common VM for Perl and Python (or was it just a joke?). Everyone was excited, but nope, Python won't use Parrot, Parrot is only in its 0.x versions**, so Perl 6 won't come soon, and the situation generally is a mess.

Isn't that somehow similiar to the situation of C++? The last standard (or rather a correction of it) dates back to 1998, i.e. 10 years ago! It's even longer than Perl. So maybe C++'s retreat is due to lack of new language standard like in Perl's case? When I look at Java, I must admit I envy it. Just recall the evolution: while Java 4 was still rather a primitive language without much interesting features (sorry, perhaps with exception of proxies and introspection), already Java 5 brought foreach, generics, annotations, lock-free synchronisation, lock-free data structures, autoboxing and a new the memory model. Admittedly Java 6 wasn't that iteresting language-wise but Java 7 will get things like closures or fork-join support for easy multicore parallelism***! This gets you a wholly new, interesting language.

Contrast that with years-long discussion about what is to be included in the C++0x standard. And I still don't know what exactly is to come! Will a new memory model be included? And lambda functions? Garbage collection? Sometimes we all think that the new Standard won't be named C++0x, because years and years of discussion will be still needed!

So maybe the quote of Bjarne Stroustrup****:
"Java shows that a (partial) break from the past—supported by massive corporate backing — can produce something new. C++ shows that a deliberately evolutionary approach can produce something new — even without significant corporate support."
is false? Mabe only a corporate-backed language has a chance today? Look how quickly Java developed and how the new C++ standard stalls. But maybe it's the "design by committe"-effect on the side of C++? I don't know.

--
* Programming Languages: Everyone Has a Favorite One: ttp://www.ddj.com/cpp/207401593
** Parrot Virtual Machine: http://www.parrotcode.org/
*** Java theory and practice: Stick a fork in it, Part 1: ttp://www.ibm.com/developerworks/java/library/j-jtp11137.html
**** his interview of 2006: http://technologyreview.com/Infotech/17868/page3/

1 comment:

mj said...

... "so Perl 6 won't come soon, and the situation generally is a mess" ...

Both Parrot VM and Rakudo Perl 6 are still alive and vital. See Perl 6 and Parrot links and follow development a bit. Christmass are comming ...